Things to Do in China

Silk Road, China: Hours, Address, Silk Road Reviews: 4.5/5

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About
These ancient trade routes between China and the West began in Xi’an, China, stretched across the mountains of Central Asia, the deserts of Persia, the plains of India to the Mediterranean.
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VVPoh
10 contributions
Ancient Silk Road, China
Oct 2019 • Friends
It’s exceptionally breathtaking 10 days trip. Our private tour guide is very knowledgeable of the area and we did not miss any important history landmarks.
From the Gobi desert...... to Macao Caves .... then The Rainbow Mountains of China within the Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park, wonder of the world. These famous Chinese mountains are known for their colours that mimic a rainbow painted over the tops of rolling mountains. The Zhangye National Geopark is located in Sunan and Linze counties
Written December 29, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

AGTraveler3
Menlo Park, CA9 contributions
Excellent silk road tour
Sep 2018 • Family
My son and I did a 5 day tour of the silk route, including Zhangye, Jiayuguan Pass, Dunhuang, and Urumqi. The trip was magical, as each place was uniquely beautiful and special. Simon arranged everything flawlessly, despite the challenge of a very short timespan for seeing so many places (there were no flights from Dunhuang to Urumqi the day we needed one, so we took the overnight train, which was a grand experience in its own right). He also made excellent suggestions for our lodging and dining. In both the trip planning and as our guide, Simon was exceptionally well-organized, well-informed, and very thoughtful, even bringing us a birthday cake to dinner the night my son turned 21. If you are considering a trip to the silk road area of China, you should definitely use Simon as your guide and organizer.
Written July 1, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Fred L
London108 contributions
Silk road journey in China
Oct 2018 • Family
i spent 23 days travelling the Eastern part of the silk road in China. and i visited Xi'an, Lanzhou, Zhangye, Dunhuang, Jiayuguan , Turpan and Urumqi.
The first thing to note is that the silk road declined precipitously in the mid 1400s. Several cities went into a fatal decline and never recovered. This was because another silk route had opened up, one by sea from Europe. which was less ardous and less dangerous.
so the places we visited had only a vestige of what it was like in the mid 1400s.
we travelled on our own for half the journey and the rest was a private tour by Richard from www dunhuangtravelguide com. He was really a great guide and driver. and knew the history of the silk road well. His English was excellent and allowed us to visualise what it was like 700 years ago. Richard took us through Zhangye, Dunhuang, Jiayuguan and some way out places like Xia he ( Labrang monastery). it made history come alive. i can well recommend him. he doesnt do what some guides do, i.e bring you to factories or shops where they get commissions . or go to restaurants where they get a cut. He is very honest , meticulous and prompt . for example - we had safely sent him nearly £2000 via paypal about a few weeks before we met him. and that s without knowing the guy in the first place.
Xiahe is a very small town , quite a way off the track but it contains a Tibetan town in mainland China. quite like visiting Tibet but not going to Tibet. The monastery is very old , very personal , and you get to see places one is not allowed to go to in other Tibetan monastery like the prayer hall or kitchen.
Zhangye contains a temple dating back to the period of the silk road called the Dafo temple ,. The Matisi grottoes is als a beautiful place, small caves carved out of a cliff, with statutes of Buddha and with most dating back to the silk road era. Merchants and rich families had the grottoes carved out as a blessing for a good year during the silk trade, gratitude for safely returning back from the west after going through a deadly journey through the deserts and bandits.
Dunhuang and Jiayuguan are perhaps the two jewels of the three in my journey . They still have the Mogao grottoes , a UNESCO site and the crescent moon lake dating back from the 1300s and 1400s.
Jiayuguan 's fort is something not be missed.
if you want to have an idea of what the Great wall looked like , this is the place. This is really impressive, compared to the Great wall segments i saw outside Beijing. Its a fort which contained a city within and surprisingly has lasted the last 700 years. This was the last gateway, where one said goodbye to China and began a journey on the silk road throught the deserts to Europe. this was also the first Chinese fort all foreign traders came through. when you look at the cobble stones at the gates, you have to imagine the thousands of weary feet, and camels which walked over them as they reached China. The same cobblestones which have been there for the last 700 years. this shouldnt be missed.
Turpan in Xinjiang is also good place to find relics of the silk road. i think the best was the Jiaohe city ( a deserted city which dates back to 700 AD ) and largely got deserted when the silk road died away in the later part of the 2nd millennia. but the city is quite well preserved, a bit like Pompeii but much much older. its spread over an area of nearly a few hundred acres with hundreds of derelict buildings. Imagine what this place was like during the height of the Silk trade , raucous, full of travellers from every corner of the world, the stench of camel dung. The Karez wells , a marvel of engineering also dates back to 600 AD and still in partial use. it s a series of underground channels diverting glacial waters from the mountains , going through the desert to this lonely oasis town called Turpan. if you arrive in August you will get to taste the fruits of this waters - grapes and melons in the middle of the desert.
Urumqi unfortunately was a big disappointment . just another big city. and its bazaar is not worth visiting . more like an old fashion shopping mall and nothing like the bazaar in Instanbul.
i hope you will enjoy your trip to the silk road there as much as we did,
Written November 14, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

maximus2288
Sydney, Australia25 contributions
Silk Road
Oct 2018 • Couples
We kicked off Silk Road journey from Xi’an on buses, fast train and plane rides. Of course one can travel independently but going with a tour company has tremendous advantages in this remote region. I must say the facilities are fantastic. Toilets are clean, and travel stops are different from what was 15 years ago. Hotels are comparable to of the modern cities. Security is very very tight but if you are harmless tourist, it is just a small inconvenience. There is so much to see and so much history.
Written October 30, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

grace90
Australia36 contributions
Our trip with Snow Leopard was everything we could have wished for and more.
Sep 2018 • Friends
The wonderful guides who were always welcoming and very knowledgeable made every day a carefree adventure. The itineraries were comprehensive and impressive and involved world heritage sites as well as unexpected delights that we could never have found on our own.
Without hesitation I’d recommend Snow Leopard Tours to anyone looking for a trustworthy company with local knowledge as well as International standard customer service.
Written September 23, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Ashali10
Glasgow, UK23 contributions
Golden Eagle Ralway Journey
Oct 2017
Was lucky enough to be on this journey crossing from Moscow all the way to Beijing at the end of last year, visiting unbelievable amazing sights along the way. Just a wonderful experience.
Written March 4, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Pavan C
Milwaukee, WI15 contributions
Mind-blowing Silk Road Adventure arranged by Lesley at China Silk Road Travel
Oct 2017 • Couples
My wife's bucket list: China Silk Road from Xian to Kashgar (also Taxkorgan) covering northern as well as southern sections of the route.
Took me over a year of painstaking research to make this possible for my wife. Lesley, whom I had selected after researching 6 other travel agents, worked patiently with me over this period, answering questions, sharing knowledge, making recommendations, and managing budget. Finally we had a 21-day private tour prepared. We were concerned as this was supposed to be a less developed part of China, and we didn't speak the local language at all!!!
In summary, we had a superb time, thanks entirely to Lesley, her arrangements, and hand holding when we needed it. The hotels, vehicles, drivers, guides, sights she picked were spot on. Despite not knowing the local language at all we never felt lost. My wife had the time of her life - an unforgettable adventure.
I particularly want to mention Lesley's help on one occasion. We were to take an overnight train from Kashgar to Kuqa. At the station the signs showed it was delayed indefinitely. After a few hours of waiting, relatively late in the evening, we were at a loss as we couldn't speak the language and had no idea what to expect. Desperately we called Lesley, fully expecting to go to a voicemail with a possible response by the morning. Much to our surprise she answered!! She spoke to the station staff and cleared up the situation for us. She gave us options and made alternative arrangements. She was on the phone with us intermittently from about 9 pm to 12:30 am!! She made sure we were comfortably in our hotel bed with an alternate flight booked in the morning for Urumqi. We were truly grateful to her for going above and beyond and making us feel fully taken care of.
On several other occasions too Lesley either answered the phone right away or called back within 5 minutes. For us this support was critical in having a trip to remember!
I'm not a very forgiving reviewer, but for these guys I feel like rewarding a 10, not just a 5!
Written November 9, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

P W
Sydney, Australia31 contributions
Excellent Tour with silkroadtourcn.com!
Jul 2017 • Friends
7 of us did a 10-day private tour with Simon's company silkroadtourcn.com. We had a great, knowledgeable and fun guide in Amy, who guided us through Qinghai, Chaka Salt Lake, Bingou Danxia, Zhangye Danxia, Badain Jaran Desert, Jiayuguan, Dunhuang, Magao Grottoes, and other places. It was a most excellent holiday and we have enjoyed the amazing sights and the fun and laughter. Thank you, Simon and Amy!! And thank you drivers Wei and Zhou!!
Written July 19, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Neelo A
Dili39 contributions
Taste of silk route
Sep 2016
A special birthday gift for my hubby which I also got to experience and enjoy. Travelled imperial class on the Golden Luxury Train - experience of a life time for sure - a bit pricey but was a wonderful trip. The itinerary was well planned and places we visited were amazing - it was great to know fellow passengers and exchange notes. Our train journey began from Moscow and we terminated it at Almaty. There was option of going all the way to Beijing but we opted out as it would be too long for us on a train! The only issue we had was obtaining visas for Russia and Central Asian countries as we were not residing in our home country and it did give us grief - I am sure the organizers can arrange visas for their passengers in groups like it is done on ship cruises. Overall fantastic trip my favourite place was Samarkand.
Written February 15, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Mora L
1 contribution
My Silk Road experience
Sep 2016 • Friends
In September of this year, we embarked the long-anticipated Silk Road expedition initiated by Emissary Zhang Qian of Han Dynasty in 138 BCE. As always, we joined Signet tour and, not only were we rewarded with outstanding services which is Signet's trademark, we were flabbergasted with experiences beyond imagination.

We started out at Xian where the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor and his silent army was located. Qin Shi Huang was 13 years old when he began building his eternal resting place. He employed over 700,000 manpower and it took 38 years to complete this edifice. I was wowed by the life-likeness and artistry of the terracotta warriors and horses and overwhelmed by the vastness and immensity of this funerary collection.

Then we got on the nostalgic New Orient Express which was comparable to camping and dorm life - the lack of comforts of home with promises of fun and adventures. Yes, the sleeper coaches were small cubicles with two berths separated by an 18" x 13" makeshift table attached to a wide window for scenic views. True, we had to share shower, vanity area and toilet with our friends; but Signet had engaged the entire train carriages just for our group. And each carriage (with five to six sleepers) was assigned a stewardess overlooking our needs and comfort. We woke up in the mornings to the smell of delicious breakfast in the restaurant car prepared with labor of love and served with warm greetings and bright smiles in a moving train. For entertainment, we were taught to dance the Gangnam style in the buffet car. Not bad.

The mighty Yellow River at Lanchow was known as the mother river and cradle of the Chinese civilization. The river was ochre-yellow with gushing rapids. Before the First Lanzhou Zhongshan Bridge was built, locals used inflated sheepskin and cowskin as buoyants attached to rafts to cross the river. These vessels used for river-crossing and trading proved dangerous as the mother river was tempestuous besides nurturing.

Jiayuguan was a pass standing at the western end of the Ming Dynasty Great Wall. Try to associate the Jiayuguan fort with today's immigration at the airport where once you cross the yellow line, you are at the mercy of foreign jurisdiction. We walked on the top tier of the fort and I touched the humble rammed earth bricks, harmoniously in tune with surrounding desert and wondered how they stood against time and harsh weather. I thought of the soldiers patrolling the bridge yearning for their families in solitude. Later we were challenged to walk up a short distance of the Great Wall and came back to sweet water melon.

DunHuang and the Mogao caves was the highlight of the trip and we might be turned away if Signet had not been tenacious. China decided to hold the first Silk Road International Cultural Expo in the city of DunHuang and acquired all hotels in the city for dignitaries, delegations of commerce and media from 58 countries. Though we stayed at a miserable employees' hostel and ate the most stingy breakfast ever served, we were on our way to DunHuang! At six o'clock in the morning, we stood waiting outside an eerie, dark, empty and windy train station scattered with military police vehicles. We were told by a not-so-friendly police/guard to stand in single file. He was holding a huge flashlight swinging up and down at us. I was thinking of the 'Schindler's list' and I told my friends to keep a straight face and put away his beloved camera or we might be sent to some caves instead of the Mogao caves. The nervous wait ended with the arrival of our coaches; yet more delay at the entrance before we were finally allowed into the Mogao caves site. As if to compensate, we were assigned a superbly knowledgeable guide. Once inside the pitch dark cave, he used a laser light to point at the delicate paintings of Gods and Goddesses, angels, dancing fairies and rich ladies dressed in finery in riotous profusion of colors. There were small and large statues of Buddha in standing or lying position with vivid expressions on their faces. What a dream come true to be just a few feet away from these precious remnants of eons ago. Camel ride after Mogao caves was eliminated due to the Expo but we had the Mingsha Mountain desert and the Crescent Moon oasis all to ourselves. I walked on the undulating sand dunes with a clear blue sky above and breathed in the dry hot air humming the theme from 'Lawrence of Arabia' under my breath. And we actually saw a lonely fish and its shadow in the pond.

Jiaohe Rivers ruins in Turpan was an archaeological site built around 1800 BC and was an important site along the Silk Road trade route leading west. It was built on a plateau with steep cliffs. There were notable graveyards and ruins of a large government office and residential districts. The city was finally abandoned after invasion by the Mongols. I felt the sadness and emptiness of this forsaken city and mentally compared it to Pompeii in ancient Rome - both held important strategic positions and both became forlorn. In the afternoon, we went to the Flaming Mountains where no vegetation existed due to high temperature of 158 degree Fahrenheit and eggs could be fried under the sun.

Urumqi was the capital of XinJiang and heavily guarded by militant due to riots in 2009 with the Chinese Government. Checkpoints were set up everywhere even getting in and out of our five stars hotel. So we left for the Heavenly Lake of Tianshan where the Goddess of Heaven supposedly resided. We walked down hill to watch the frothing Feilong Waterfall then we sailed the boat to the center of the lake. The serenity and quietude of the alpine mountains and the gentle breeze from the lake brushed away the hustle and bustle of the climb from the waterfall and filled our hearts with peace and appreciation of nature in its totality.

Kanas Valley was the lake area located in the Altai Mountains, near the very northern tip of Xinjiang, Mongolia and Russia. We were traveling north and the temperature changed from extreme heat to icy cold. We stayed at Kanas for three nights and we spent the first night at the dainty Hemu lodge where colorful wild flowers were growing all around. We found long, heavy green Mao coats in our closet ready for morning walks. Due to high altitude, the sky lit up before the sun rose in the mountains. On our way back to breakfast after our walk, we saw the sun peeking at the top of the mountain and in just a second it rose to show its full face. We spent the next two nights at the Kanas Hotel, a wood structure surrounded by tall pine trees with a sweet scent and humming bees. At night, if you look up the dark sky lit by very bright stars, you would feel the power of the universe and realize we were but one tiny speck in creation. During these few days, we ate a a Mongolian Yurt and were served delicious hand-torned lamb, mutton skewers and other delicacies. We visited a local family where we were entertained by local folk-singers. The instrument used was flute-like and made of reed and the tune sounded like a wind blowing across the wilderness, tossing reeds alongside a lake and the wild geese flapping their wings towards the northern sky.

To get a better view of the Kanas Lake, we climbed more than 1000 steps up the Watch Fish Tower for a panoramic view before coming back down another thousand steps. We spent the last day driving down the winding mountain road in our luxurious coaches taking a closer look at the Crescent Bay, the Crouching Bay and Moon Bay. The lake was thin and long and the Kanas River meandered from the Altai Mountains surrounding the lake with majestic pine and white birch trees pointing at the blue sky with billowy white clouds. We got off the bus and walked on a wooden trail dusted by dried crunchy leaves. The sunlight filtered through the branches and turned the birch tree leaves to a silvery hue; a gentle mountain breeze blew a wisp of leaves like twinkles onto our heads in the quiet grove. It was so beautiful and surreal. We walked onto a wooden bridge where we could see the clear clam turquoise color river in front and a small rapids gushing down on the back. There was a short cement bridge crisscrossing above blending in with yielding branches and the green mountain ridges in the background creating a most intrigue isometric picture. At the end of the trail, we walked into an opening and a spread of goodies and hot drinks were waiting for us.

Our group consisted of 68 people divided into two coaches with three guides for each group and there were occasional pop-up local guides waving the Signet flag. On the night when we were to board the New Orient Express, there was a lengthy wait time. Instead of letting us sit and wait at the crowded station, Signet put us in a hotel to take shower and freshen up. I don't know where they found those VIP coaches on the last day at Kanas, but we had the best mannered drivers wearing white gloves standing by the coach door with a smile. And, we were the only tour group allowed into the Magao caves site at DunHuang. We did horseback riding when camels were not available. Our six guides were our guardian angels holding onto our important documents. They were our fighters protecting us from deranged crowd at airports. They made sure our luggage was going onto the right plane and ensured everyone got to their gate safely and on time for boarding to our various destinations. They were hard-working, experienced, energetic and great companions and friends to travel with on a journey in a foreign land. They were always cheerful despite the tricky dealings of the ever changing rules of China. I bet they never slept enough because if we had a 5 o'clock wait-up call, they probably woke up two hours earlier for preparation - hey, could it be those coffee packets they passed around at breakfasts that made them so hyper?? Signet runs a successful enterprise because it has innovation-the brain, a bunch of exceptional and loyal employees-the arms and legs, and the readiness to give-the heart. Well, you have won our hearts over in return.
Written October 27, 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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